Understanding how much home you can afford
Last Updated: October 2, 2023

Understanding how much home you can afford

When you’re in the market for a new home, one of the most critical questions you’ll need to answer is, “How much home can I afford?” The answer isn’t always straightforward. It requires an in-depth look into your financial situation, taking into account your income, monthly debts, down payment amount, and more. This blog will guide you through the process of calculating affordability when buying a new home.

Understanding Affordability

Before diving into calculations, it’s crucial to understand what affordability means in the context of home buying. Affordability refers to your ability to make mortgage payments along with other expenses without financial stress. A rule of thumb is to have three months of payments, including your housing payment and other monthly debts, in reserve.

The 25% Rule

A widely accepted guideline for calculating home affordability is the 25% rule. The guideline says you should try not to spend more than 25% of your monthly take-home pay (after tax) on monthly mortgage payments. This is a practical approach to ensure that your home purchase doesn’t overly strain your budget, leaving room for other expenses and savings.

Factors Influencing Affordability

Several factors influence how much house you can afford. These include your gross monthly income, monthly debts, down payment amount, your home state, credit rating, and loan type.
Income: Your income plays a significant role in determining how much house you can afford. Lenders typically prefer that your mortgage payment (including taxes and insurance) doesn’t exceed 41% of your gross monthly income (pre-tax).

Debts: If you have high monthly debt payments, you might afford less house. Lenders look at your debt-to-income ratio (DTI), which is all your monthly debt payments divided by your gross monthly income. A lower DTI can help you qualify for a better mortgage rate.

Down Payment: The amount of money you can put down upfront also affects how much house you can afford. A larger down payment can lower your monthly mortgage payment and potentially eliminate the need for private mortgage insurance (PMI).

Credit Rating: Your credit score can significantly impact your mortgage interest rate. A higher credit score can help you secure a lower interest rate, reducing your monthly payment and overall loan cost.

Loan Type: The type of home loan you choose also impacts how much house you can afford. Different loans have different terms, interest rates, and requirements.

Online Calculators

Online tools can help you calculate how much house you can afford. These calculators take into account various factors like income, monthly debt, down payment, and more. However, they should be used as a guide rather than a definitive answer, as they may not consider all aspects of your financial situation.

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Assessing Your Lifestyle and Future Goals

When calculating home affordability, it’s vital to consider your current lifestyle and future goals. If you plan to start or expand your family, you may need a larger home, which could cost more. If you’re planning to retire soon, you might want a smaller home to downsize and reduce expenses. You should also consider how stable your income is. If there’s a risk of job loss or a decrease in income, it would be wise to buy a more affordable home.

Considering Additional Costs

In addition to the mortgage payment, don’t forget to factor in other costs associated with homeownership. These include property taxes, homeowners insurance, maintenance, and repairs. Also, factor in closing costs, which can be between 2% and 5% of your loan amount.

Consulting a lender and getting preapproved for a mortgage is a crucial step in the home buying process. This process not only gives you an idea of how much house you can afford, but it also provides you with bargaining power when negotiating with sellers.

Getting Preapproved

Getting preapproved for a mortgage involves providing the lender with detailed information about your finances. The lender will verify your income, employment, debt, and assets. They will also check your credit score. Based on this information, the lender will determine whether you qualify for a loan and, if so, how much you’re eligible to borrow.

A mortgage preapproval is typically valid for 60 to 90 days, depending on the lender. During this period, you can shop for homes knowing exactly how much you can afford to spend.

Getting Preapproved

Benefits of Preapproval

There are several benefits to getting preapproved for a mortgage. Firstly, it gives you a clear idea of your budget, which can help narrow down your home search. Secondly, having a preapproval letter signals to sellers that you’re a serious buyer, which can give you an edge in competitive markets.

Additionally, being preapproved can speed up the home buying process once you’ve found a property you want to purchase. Since the lender has already reviewed and approved your finances, the closing process can move along more quickly7.


Determining how much house you can afford involves careful consideration of various factors. It’s essential to understand your financial situation thoroughly and consult with multiple lenders to ensure you’re making a sound financial decision. Remember, the goal is not just to buy a house, but to build a home that offers comfort, security, and financial peace of mind.

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